Byline: PAUL WAUGH
AMID the giant neon chaos of Times Square, a crowd of screamingtwentysomethings was giving the NYPD a new kind of headache.
Steel barricades had been hastily erected and beat cops posted on the sidewalkto keep order. Even mounted police were drafted in, their bemused white horsesincongruously picking their way through the Saturday night traffic.
The cacophonypart rock concert, part football gameturned into outright delirium when a 50ft-high screen suddenly cut to livepictures of a young black politician with a twinkling smile, a man who couldjust turn out to be the next President of the United States.
Welcome to Obamamania.
Much touted as the reason for his surging popularity, Senator Barack Obama'savid following among young Americans has to be seen to be believed. And withSuper Tuesday closing in fast and his rival Hillary Clinton still ahead in keystates, his campaign for the Democratic nomination desperately needs theunderthirties to turn out and vote as never before.
Many of this generation have parents who are younger than Mrs Clinton (60)and some have grandparents who are younger than Republican frontrunner JohnMcCain (72). Ever since they were born, there has been a Bush or a Clinton inthe White House.
In an age when political apathy is taken for granted, the Obama effect hascertainly been dizzying. In Iowa, he took the under-25 vote by a margin of 5-1as turnout increased by 135 per cent. In New Hampshire and South Carolina,similar recordbreaking numbers joined the ballot.
They weren't alive for JFK, but these youngsters feel they are, to quote one,"on the edge of something huge".
Using networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, the campaign has managedto galvanise its base, look ultra-cool and also access an invaluable source offunds. More than 250,000 new online supporters joined in January alone, takingthe total to 600,000.
Although each supporter gives only a few dollars, the sheer numbers involvedmeant Obama For America raised a staggering $32 million in just four weeks, arecord in US primary history.
The New York branch of Students for Obama that gathered outside the MTV studiosin Times Square was typical of the backing the 46-year-old Senator isreceiving. Energised by emails and phone texts, the campaign used "flashmob"-style tactics to swamp the area for what it called a "visibility event".
MTV had teamed up with MySpace to quiz the presidential hopefuls, each beamedin from different parts of the country. The contrast between the two Democratscouldn't have been more plain. Mr Obama won whoops and cheers as he said:"Change in America has always started with the young... they're not tied upwith the world as it is; they imagine the world as it might be." Mrs Clinton,in answer to one question, sounded like Grandma Walton.
"When I was your age..." she said.
The difference in style was reflected tellingly among the two campaigns'supporters on the street outside.
The Obama camp was a rag-tag of whites, blacks and hispanics, complete withmakeshift banners and shouting "O-O-Oba-MA!".
The smaller Clinton contingent had huge glossy posters and a distinctly IvyLeague feel. …